Speaking tour a suitable fraud sentence: lawyer

Two theatre heavyweights convicted of a massive fraud spanning nearly a decade should be spared jail time and instead embark on speaking tours to inspire and instil ethics in students, their lawyers told court Tuesday.

TORONTO — Two theatre heavyweights convicted of a massive fraud spanning nearly a decade should be spared jail time and instead embark on speaking tours to inspire and instil ethics in students, their lawyers told court Tuesday.

Garth Drabinsky and his business partner Myron Gottlieb were each found guilty in March of two counts of fraud and one count of forgery for defrauding investors of millions.

Their company Livent was behind Canadian and Broadway theatre hits such as “The Phantom of the Opera.” Drabinsky and Gottlieb are alleged to have misrepresented the theatre company’s financial health in the nine years before the Toronto-based firm went bankrupt in late 1998.

In finding the pair guilty, Ontario Superior Court Justice Mary Lou Benotto said the company’s creative success was unmistakable, but Drabinsky and Gottlieb “systematically manipulated the books to outwardly increase profits.”

The fraud and forgery convictions carry respective maximum sentences of 10 and 14 years.

Drabinsky and Gottlieb are represented by prominent defence lawyers Edward and Brian Greenspan, who are brothers. At the sentencing hearing for the pair, both lawyers asked for conditional sentences of two years less a day for their clients, followed by three years of probation, and 240 hours each of community service.

The Crown is seeking eight to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Benotto will hand down the sentences on Aug. 5.

Drabinsky’s lawyer Edward Greenspan recommended that as part of his conditional sentence, his client go on a speaking tour at theatre schools across Canada to give “inspirational speeches,” discussing the craft of theatre and “the avoidance of unethical conduct.”

Gottlieb’s lawyer Brian Greenspan presented letters from six Canadian business schools that would be interested in hosting a lecture series from Gottlieb on professional and business integrity.

If those lectures make up fewer than 240 hours of community service, the remainder could be spent volunteering at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, Brian Greenspan said.

Edward Greenspan proposed Drabinsky could also fundraise $50,000 to go toward scholarships for underprivileged children wishing to study the performing arts.

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